The quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to your website is a direct ranking factor for search engines, so it’s important to have a way of acquiring them. Of course, sometimes these occur naturally, and that’s great! But to really start building your backlink profile, it’s best to employ some specific techniques and tactics.
One of the main aims of employing Digital PR as a strategy is gaining these backlinks from other websites, but not all links hold the same value. While it’s great to gain almost any link, there are a lot of things to consider when valuing a link.
One of the biggest factors is the quality of the website you have gained the backlink from. Gaining a link from a website that is well-known, is well built and has solid SEO will provide a higher amount of “Link Equity” (also known as “Link Juice”). This is the value that a specific link passes along that a search engine uses when deciding rankings and thus gives more of an impact on the overall ranking of your website.
Some popular SEO tools provide an overall ranking (often known as Domain Authority or Domain Ratings) to give an idea of how “good” a website is. But, it’s best to use these scores as guidance rather than a rule (a new website may score very low on these just because it’s new). Quick signs of a lower-quality website include hosting a lot of adverts, having hundreds of links on a page (often known as a link-farm), being an unsecured website, slow loading times and low scores for Google’s “Core Web Vitals”.
Static vs Time-Sensitive
There are two main categories when it comes to building links on websites, Static Links and Time-sensitive links, each providing a different impact on the overall backlink profile.
Static links are links that are generally unaffected by when they were added and provide a consistent value to your backlink profile. These are often located on pages which don’t change or are updated infrequently and usually provide a smaller amount of link equity compared to time-sensitive links. Some examples include information pages, company partner pages and “Our clients” we work with pages. Once a static link is in place, there is usually no need to request further links from that domain, as additional links provide little to no further link equity.
A time-sensitive link is one whose value fades as time passes – the older they get, the less link equity they provide. These links usually provide a larger impact when they are first placed compared to a static link. Examples of these are links on news websites, blog posts and on the extreme end, social media links (with the average life of a tweet being approximately 3 seconds, social media links get lost and fade extremely quickly). It’s important to note that it is worth acquiring further time-sensitive links from the same domain as these reset the time aspect, keeping the link “fresh”.
Static links should act as a foundation, with time-sensitive links providing the more significant impacts, working side-by-side to form a well-rounded backlink profile.
Another factor is where the link is located on the page. The best locations tend to be those which will be seen by visitors, which then have the best chance of them being clicked. For example, having the link above the fold means that a visitor will see the link as soon as the page loads, without having to scroll. Whereas being in a drop-down or hidden behind additional clicks means it’s less likely to be seen and thus less likely to make an impression.
It’s also important to think about the whereabouts in the website the link is located. Being placed on a page with lots of other links can dilute the link equity given (“Useful links” pages thus provide less value), as can being placed on a page that is multiple clicks away from the homepage. Links which appear natural and organic are best, being placed within an article or cited in a reference section, for example.
The Link Itself
One of the additional factors which can have a big impact on the value of a backlink is how the link is added and tagged. The two most common tags are DoFollow and NoFollow. A DoFollow link allows search engines to follow this link to the target website, whereas a NoFollow link does not. What this means is that a DoFollow link passes on link equity and helps improve rankings directly, whereas a NoFollow does not. A NoFollow link is not useless. It is still used as a “hint” by search engine ranking algorithms, and still provides some other benefits such as brand recognition and referral traffic.
There is also importance to where on your website the link is pointing to, as this determines where the majority of link equity flows to. A deep link points to a particular page or category, whereas a shallow link points to your homepage.
Alongside these key factors, there are some other things that can affect the value of a link. Relevance is an important factor as this includes relevance in the industry, country and context – if a link isn’t relevant, then it shouldn’t be included.
Then there is the anchor text used for the link. Anchor text is the actual words displayed on the page that holds the link. These words (along with any accompanying text) should be unique, relevant, and, where possible, target specific keywords you’re trying to rank for. Most of the time, you will not have control over what is used as anchor text on an external website, but when you do, it’s worth optimising them for what you are trying to achieve.
As mentioned in the introduction, it is great to gain almost any link. But there are a few exceptions to this. These are often referred to as “Toxic links”. They can damage your backlink profile and actually make your rankings worse.
Identifying toxic links isn’t always easy. Some signs include having a low domain authority score, hosting a lot of adverts and/or having a lot of backlinks pointing from one page. Paying directly for links is also against Google’s guidelines, so should be avoided at all costs.
Once you have identified these toxic links, there are a few things you can do to help tackle them. You should always try to contact the website administrator or author first and ask for them to be removed. If that is not possible, the next step is to use Google’s, Disavow Tool.
DO NOTE – Google issued a warning when using the disavow tool:
It’s also worth mentioning that Google says, “In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most sites will not need to use this tool.”
If you’re ever uncertain about using the tool, a friendly SEO should be able to help.